Racial divisions tracking income polarization

Three recent learnings from the Ontario Nonprofit Housing Association conference scared me about the future of our city:

I was sitting through a presentation I had seen a few times, about the growing concentrations of poverty across the city and the high income enclaves that were also emerging, when I was struck to hear how substantially these aligned with the emerging racial division in the city. Just as income has polarized even over the past five years, so have the racial divisions. Neighbourhoods which were mainly white at the 2001 census are now likely to be even more white, according to research being led by Professor David Hulchanski at the University of Toronto.

So, the next morning, as I sat through an anti-racism workshop at the same conference, we were asked if we saw evidence of racism in our communities. Hulchanski’s work shows that, as the city’s foreign-born population now hits 50% of residents and people of colour will soon be a majority of the population, many white people, especially those living in high income areas, are less and less likely to have contact in their day-to-day lives with those from another racial background.

Finally, in another session, we talked about the dynamics of what happens when mixed neighbourhoods disappear. Like the idea of supermajorites, as described by political scientists, when populations become more homogenous and ideas and social mores are not challenged, they tend to become more extreme in their positions.

All this means that urban residents, living within increasingly racially and economically segregated neighbourhoods, will become increasingly isolated and separate in their world views and experience.

As I said, scary.

David Hulchanski’s work can be found at maps of city neighbourhoods with very high concentrations of white and visible minority populations and a recent presentation.

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